A BRIEF HISTORY OF SCENTED CANDLES
Scented candles are found in almost every person's home these days. While their use can form part of a daily relaxation ritual in many homes, the reasons why candles are used now are very different from when they were first invented. Earlier on, they were mainly used as a source of light once the sun had gone down, or in prayers. These days, their use is much more versatile, revolving around celebrations, romance, relaxation, home decoration and much more.
The history of scented candles is quite interesting. Initially, people were more focused on lighting up their homes and other places and did not even consider using candles as a way to add fragrance to a room. Over time, with more discoveries, people came up with the idea of scented candles, and now, they're popular all over the world.
THE ORIGIN OF CANDLES
While there is no exact date or location that we can pinpoint as being the origin of candlemaking, what is clear is that many different civilisations have been creating their versions of candles for 5,000 years or more.
THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS & THE FIRST CANDLES
Dating as far back as 3,000BC the ancient Egyptians made candles from a combination of animal fat and reeds. Albeit the reed wasn't a true wick as we know them today, the concept still worked the same way with the animal fat fueling the reed's flame.
THE ROMANS & THE FIRST WICK CANDLES
Around 500BC the Romans made candles by dipping rolled papyrus (made from the pith of the papyrus plant) repeatedly into melted tallow (made from melted beef or mutton fat) or beeswax to form what's generally considered to be the first wick candles.
There's evidence to show that around the world other civilisations were also using wicked candles.
The Chinese made wicks from rolled rice paper and their wax from a combination of insects and seeds or alternatively whale fat.
The Japanese made their candles from wax extracted from tree nuts and in India, they made theirs from boiling the fruit of the cinnamon tree. These were probably the first candles to give off a pleasant smell when burning as compared to the other widely used methods of making candle wax.
THE MIDDLE AGES
By the middle ages, with the collapse of the Roman Empire and the resulting lack of olive oil available to fuel oil lamps, the use of candles as a source of light across Europe was commonplace.
Tallow was the standard material used by Europeans to make candles. Unfortunately, being an animal byproduct the smell of tallow candles being manufactured and burned was rancid. So much so that tallow candle manufacturing was banned across many European cities.
It was at this point that beeswax was adopted by Europe as a better alternative, that didn't harness the same unpleasant odours. However, beeswax candles were expensive to produce and as a result were only available to the wealthy, churches and royalty.
THE ARRIVAL OF SCENTED CANDLES
Candles remained popular right up until 1879 when the first light bulb was invented and other more modern methods of lighting took precedence.
It was at this point that candles came to be viewed as a decorative item instead of purely functional. Candles of all different shapes, sizes and colours were suddenly available and the first scented candles were marketed to the public. By the mid 1980's candles were firmly established as great mood enhancers, gifts and decorative items.
The popularity of candles throughout the ages and across civilisations has been consistent. The joy of watching a flickering candle burn is synonymous with a sense of comfort and relaxation that is deeply burned into our shared psyche.
Even though the demand for candles took a dip in the middle, they're back on demand even more than ever.